“Beautiful Black Queen”

My birth made my grandmother, Donna Staples (1956-2005) a young grandmother. When I think about things she said or did that have left a mark, I’m more apt to think about what she didn’t say or do. I only saw my grandmother cry twice in her young life and I’m not sure the second one counts because she wasn’t lucid. My mother had me when she was only 15-years-old, which meant that like so many teenage moms she stayed home with her mom. So, we lived multi-generationally—my grandmother, mother, two aunts, and me. My grandmother carried the family as a single mother, which was far from easy. The first time I ever saw her cry was when her sister died and she couldn’t afford to attend the funeral. She was helping my mother raise me, still raising her own two daughters, and my mother had a second child on the way. We couldn’t afford it. The second time I saw her cry was when she was on her deathbed and I think she wasn’t lucid because of all the medications they had her on.

Donna Staples was a quiet, sweet woman. One of those rare souls who didn’t talk badly about people. She also had a quiet strength. So, imagine the intensity of my emotions seeing my grandmother cry for the first time and feeling helpless to do anything about it. Poverty does that—makes you stand frozen in the fire. I didn’t know it then, but that lack of tears and that quiet strength would prepare me for her premature death at age 49 and the sudden death of my mother Seraphia Staples at just 36-years-old. I thank my grandmother now as I did then for her sacrifice, her strength, and finally for her tears. I wrote this poem for her when she died (I was 14 years-old):

Beautiful Black Queen
By Yoshi Staples

Strongest woman I’ve ever met
Strongest woman I’ve ever seen
Yet nobody treated her like a Beautiful Black Queen
Yet people still lie, cheat, and deceive her
Even the man that conceived her
She was a Beautiful Black Queen
She never cried
Never shed a tear
But she was always there when you had a fear
She was a Beautiful Black Queen
Now she’s gone and has no fears
No tears of sadness, but tears of happiness
She was a Beautiful Black Queen
And now the time has gone for her to be with her King